Inspiration for Writing the Book
Kate: I have been a book lover since I was in preschool. As a deeply shy kid, I often hid behind books in situations where I felt overwhelmed. And I always knew I wanted to write a book someday—my first attempt at a novel was in fourth grade! As I got older, I felt the truth of the dictum “Write what you know.” I have taken care of people experiencing pregnancy loss for two decades, and I had two losses of my own (at 29 weeks and 6 weeks of pregnancy). So, I knew that I could bring together both my professional and personal experiences in one work.
Talking Openly about Miscarriage
Simon: Early in the book, you mention that miscarriage is common, but people rarely talk about it. What could be done to help people feel more comfortable in openly talking about their miscarriage?
Kate: I hope that knowing how common miscarriage is, and how many people in your life have probably had one, will allow people to be more open about what they’re going through. When people understand miscarriage a bit better—that it’s due to forces outside your control, that you didn’t do anything to cause it to happen—that may also help reduce some of the shame about loss.
Kate’s Favorite Chapter
Simon: What is your favorite chapter of Your Guide to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss and Why?
Kate: I’m torn between “What to Expect When You’re No Longer Expecting” and “Ambivalence and Loss.” The “What to Expect” chapter lays down a map of all the ways you may be feeling in the weeks right after a loss, and I hope it helps to validate that all emotions are okay. In the “Ambivalence” chapter, I address a topic that is rarely discussed—that not every pregnancy is overwhelmingly welcome, and it’s normal to be conflicted sometimes about how you feel about a pregnancy. And this conflict can lead to some confusing feelings if you then have a miscarriage. I loved being able to speak to people who think they’re the only ones who have experienced this ambivalence.
Deciding the Number of Parts
Simon: You break the contents of Your Guide to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss into five parts. What was your process for helping you decide how many parts to have in this book?
Kate: The idea of a journey through loss resonated with me. So, I decided to structure the book in the chronological order that people experience a miscarriage: getting the diagnosis, deciding how to manage it, experiencing the loss, and then the aftermath. I think this structure works well for something experiential that takes place through time. And it makes it easier for people who are picking up this book, perhaps years after their miscarriage, to find the parts of the book that they need.
Highlighting Content in Boxes
Simon: Throughout Your Guide to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss, you place some of the content in boxes with orange borders. This seems like a great way to highlight important content and separate it from the regular text. How did you decide which content to separate out into these boxes versus having that content reside in the main text of the book?
Kate: When I was sketching out the content for each chapter, I often had information that was very important to include but didn’t fit the narrative of that chapter. When I didn’t want to interrupt the main flow of reading, I worked with my editor to figure out how to present the information in an off-set way. I tried to keep the reader experience at the center—this was one of the ways that readers could decide how they wanted to take in the information. Plus, these boxes, as well as the questions from readers behind a bar on the side, provide additional points of entry into the book, for someone who is thumbing through.
Tips for Defining Common Terms
Simon: In the beginning of many of the chapters, you provide definitions of common medical terms. I found these definitions to be very helpful in understanding the terms. What tips might you give to authors who are thinking about including terms with definitions in their book?
Kate: Doctors in particular are not great at remembering that patients don’t speak the same language (Medicine) they do! I didn’t want to assume that all my readers had the same degree of knowledge. And it’s not just about reading level, but I wanted us all to be on the same page—I didn’t want to make people feel like this book wasn’t for them or send them to a dictionary to figure out what I’m talking about. So, if you’re going to use any technical or jargon-y language in your book, I encourage you to think about providing definitions. At the start of each chapter, I define things that you need to know to get the most out of that chapter. Then I included a large glossary of terms that I may have only used once or twice.
An Important Lesson Learned
Simon: What is the most important lesson you learned from writing Your Guide to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss that you would apply to any future books or writing activities?
Kate: Find a process for writing that works for you. I have often read the advice to get up early in the morning to work on your book. I am NOT a morning person, plus I need to be up early to get to work. No 5am wake-up for me! But I did struggle to find the time to work on this project, despite how much it meant to me. So, I figured out another path: I made “appointments” with a copy editor friend of mine and dictated the book to her. I walked around my house and talked to her on my phone as if I was talking to a patient. She then transcribed my thoughts and sent me a chapter at a time. I found it easier to keep my commitment of talking to her, rather than just trying to find time to sit down at my computer. It’s also so much easier to edit than to write, and this way I got to fast forward to the editing phase!
Working with a Dream Publisher
Simon: You published Your Guide to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss with Mayo Clinic Press, one of the leading consumer health reference book publishers nationwide. What was it like working with this publishing company and what did you learn?
Kate: Working with Mayo Clinic Press was a dream. I can’t stress enough how wonderful it is to work with a publisher who GETS the need for your book, and who understands what you want to express. And I got incredibly lucky to work with my editor, Stephanie Vaughan—she took my writing to the next level, while always maintaining my voice. She knew I wanted to learn as much about publishing as I could, so I got to understand publishing timelines, and the backstage review process, and especially what you can negotiate and what you can’t as an author.
Simon: What tips do you have for authors who are hoping to have a great experience with a publisher?
Kate: It can feel wonderful to have a publisher interested in your book, and I can relate to the temptation to just say yes to an offer. But it’s critical that you and the publisher or editor have a similar vision for your book from the outset, so that you’re all working to get your book to the same place. It’s wonderful to have an editor read your work carefully, because they will see things that you can’t. Early drafts of my manuscript included “rants” against the health care system and people who are unsympathetic or judgmental towards miscarriage sufferers. My editor kindly helped me realize that these rants were out of tone with the rest of the book and were best saved for my blog! And know that you’re going to have to give up control over some things (including likely the title and cover), but you can choose which hills to die on, to keep the things in your book you care about the most.
Advice for Marketing Your Book
Simon: What marketing activities have you engaged in to help promote Your Guide to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss. What advice would you give to authors who are hoping to successfully market their book?
Kate: I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have public relations folks through Mayo help me secure opportunities to promote the book (Jacqui Daniels, you’re the best!). I also jump at the chance to talk to reporters about any topic, not just miscarriage, to have opportunities to mention the book. For nonfiction writers who have expertise to share, consider signing up for HARO (Help A Reporter Out) for daily opportunities to connect to reporters about your specialty. My professional organization was very supportive in promoting the book at our virtual annual meeting this month and used copies of my book (donated by the publisher) as raffle prizes. I’m also scheduled to appear on several podcasts that focus on women’s health, as well as writing short pieces for online publication. And I’m doing my first Instagram Live even with a podcast team as well!
Writing a Book Takes a Team
Simon: In the acknowledgements section, you name several people on your team that helped you with Your Guide to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss. Name 1-2 of these individuals and how they helped you with the book. What should authors consider when thinking about how to build the community of people to help them achieve their dreams of writing and publishing a book?
Kate: I needed three whole pages to thank everyone who helped me on the journey of writing this book. Beta readers, like my dear friend Dr. Kathy Sharpless, gave me invaluable feedback on an early draft of the book, and helped me figure out what things were working, and which ones weren’t. And my husband, Chad White, was my biggest champion from the start. He edited multiple drafts and gave me suggestions about content and presentation. Because of his efforts, the manuscript was in excellent shape when I submitted it to the publisher. Plus, he was very understanding of me disappearing into my office so many nights and weekends!
Feedback is such a gift, and I found so many friends and colleagues who were willing to read portions of or the entire manuscript and tell me what they really thought. I also used my professional connections to get a draft in front of respected people in my field to give me early testimonials that I could use in marketing later.
Dr. Kate White is a practicing gynecologist and the OB/GYN Vice-Chair of Academics at Boston Medical Center, and an associate professor of OB/GYN at the Boston University School of Medicine. She is an educator, a researcher, and a mentor in addition to her clinical work. Dr. Kate teaches women how to better understand their bodies, helps them be unafraid of seeing the doctor, and to arm them with questions to ask.